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The Flames returned to the States, and also resumed playing league games after playing in 8 tournament games over the past two weekends, including the visit to Ottawa, ON. In, normal, road game, fashion, the Flames made the trip to Everett, MA for an 8am showdown against the Raiders. Although the Flames never really seemed to click into gear as a cohesive unit this morning, they played well enough to win 3-0. The goaltending tandem of Anders Lindberg and Keenan Alnahas stayed red-hot, earning their 7th shutout of the season, stopping all 16 shots.
1st Period: It was apparent to me early on that this Raider team has improved. They were much more structured in their movement of the puck, and their methodical approach to working the puck up ice gained them more scoring opportunities. Even so, the Flames struck early with a goal in the first three minutes. Zachary Bayer rushed up the left-wing and beat the Raiders to their own net and scored by beating the goaltender up high. Patrick Goren and Sam Hebert made passes out of their own end in order to spring Bayer on his rush up ice. After one period, the Flames led 1-0 and held a slight 7-6 advantage in shots. The shots on net totals were somewhat misleading, as the Raiders piled up five shots on one power play.
2nd Period: In the second period, the Flames came together a little bit better, and really pressed the Raider players coming out of their own end. This created two things; for one thing, the Flames caused turnovers by pressuring the puck carrier. The second thing that came from the pressure was scoring chances. The Flames outshot the Raiders 10-3 in the period and doubled their lead on the scoreboard at 2-0. Wil Hebert scored an unassisted goal when he took over a shift as a one-man forechecking force. He picked off a puck at center ice, curled around a defender, and beat a couple of stick checks from retreating Raiders en route to the front of the net, where he buried his shot.
3rd Period: The Flames killed an early penalty in the final period, holding a two-goal lead while looking for some insurance. Insurance came when the Flames, after cycling the puck through a line change, scored a nice goal, set up by teamwork. Zachary Bayer got the goal, but the puck could have easily been pushed into the net by Kyle O’Flaherty, who was in the right place at the right time. Brendan Courtney had made a nice pass to set the whole thing up, and got the only assist on the goal. The score remained 3-0 through the final buzzer, and the Flames earned their 32nd win of the season.
On Tap: Sunday, Feb. 3: @ Nashua Pee Wee 2 – Skate 3 Blue – 10:50am. This is an important GSL game tomorrow morning. The Flames need points in the standings to solidify a playoff spot.
Saturday afternoon the Flames played their third and final game of round robin competition in the 9th Annual Capital Winter Classic Hockey Tournament. The Flames played the Kanata Blazers with a playoff berth on the line. As it turns out, the Flames fell to the Blazers 2-0, and missed out on a playoff spot due to tie breakers. Let’s recap.
1st Period: The first period played out like I thought it might, even, conservative, and a little bit physical. It was at least all of those, as the teams combined for six total shots, and nary a scoring chance, although the Blazers did hit the crossbar with a shot late in the period.
2nd Period: The second period starting much the same way the first period played out, even, not many chances, and scoreless. Then things changed quickly, and they changed dramatically. I wish the momentum change wasn’t tied to something the team has struggled with all season, but in hindsight it looks that way. With 5:33 left to play in the period, or just past the half way point of the game, the Flames made their customary goal tender change. At that time in the game, the Blazers might have looked like the better overall skating team, but the Flames were getting chances sporadically as well. At this measurement point, the Flames had 6 shots, the Blazers had just 4. There were no goals scored, nor were there any penalties for either team. With 4:50 left in the period the Flames took a penalty, 2:00 minute penalties in Canada. At 3:16 left, the Flames took a second penalty; this one gave the Blazers a 5-on-3 advantage for 26 seconds. The Blazers needed just 13 seconds to score a power play goal, taking a 1-0 lead. Just like that, the Blazers had gone from 4 shots in nineteen minutes to ripping off 7 shots in the next 3+ minutes. Honestly, neither Flames penalty was brutal; however both of them could have been easily avoided. The period ended with the Flames trailing 1-0, and now being out gunned 12-6 in shots. Another note, after the change in goal, the Flames did not register a shot for the remainder of the period while the Blazers had 8 shots.
3rd Period: The third period was desperation time for the Flames; at least they were getting more desperate with each passing minute. Even so, the Flames only registered 1 shot on goal in the first nine minutes of the third period. During this time, the Blazers constantly had both defensemen back while making perfect break out passes time and time again, and rushed up ice, three across, like it was drawn up on the board. The Blazers also struck for a second goal in this time and were dominating play. The Blazers had sent 10 shots on net to the Flames 1 shot until the Blazers took their only penalty of the game. The Flames rallied over the last 1:48, getting 4 shots on goal, but were unable to score. Ultimately, the Flames lost 2-0, and were dominated in shots by a 24-11 margin. After losing to the Blazers it was up to tie breakers, and remaining games from other teams to determine the fate of the Flames playoff hopes. Zachary Bayer was recognized as player of the game for the Flames.
As it turned out, the Flames tied for first in their division, but were seeded third as a result of their goal differential. Then, the other three divisions finished play, and seeded their teams, which left the Flames as the 8th overall seed, and only 6 teams moved into the playoffs. So, the tournament was done for the Flames. No playoffs due to tie breakers, which ultimately comes back to how the team performed on the ice.
From this perspective I thought the team played well. They competed in every period, and gave themselves opportunities to win games, and win they did, two out of three times. The Flames scored 4 goals and allowed just 3 goals over the three games played, while taking 6 minor penalties. The goaltenders were sensational. Anders Lindberg made 29 saves on 31 shots for a save percentage of .935. Keenan Alnahas saved 15 of 16 shots for a percentage of .938. These percentages are fantastic at any level. These two and the team may have deserved better based on their abilities to keep pucks out of their own net. Either one of these goalies could have been player of the game in any of the games. In my opinion, Brendan Courtney could have been player of the game in all 3 games, as he did his best Zdeno Chara, shutdown defenseman impersonation. There were notable players up and down the lineup for the Flames and they should take pride in their effort as a team, and as individuals. Good showing Flames!
The trip to Ottawa was fun, even if frigid temperatures kept sightseeing to a minimum. The kids played good hockey, they played in world-class facilities, they played in a community that’s part of a country that takes this game seriously, and expects all that participate to play the game the right way. The Pittsburgh Penguins held a practice in the rink next door (in the same building) to the ice sheet that the Flames were playing on in their final game. I saw the kids scurry and scamper up and down hotel halls so they could hang out together and play more knee hockey, or go swimming, or just be together. I also saw the rosy red cheeks of one teammate after another returning from a brisk skate on the Rideau Canal. I hope all had fun. I know I enjoy the city of Ottawa and the offerings it makes available to visitors, and I hope others enjoyed a slice of their visit to Ottawa as well. Our family had fun, and I particularly enjoyed getting a 4 mile skate on the canal with both my 20-year old and 12-year old sons.
The Manchester Flames Pee Wee Majors traveled to Ottawa, Ontario to compete in the 9th Annual Capital Winter Classic Tournament, and this morning they played their opening game. Walking into the complex this morning, we sought the unfamiliar relief of the cold rink as a place of warmth to get away from the wind chills of 10 and 20 degrees below zero. Feeling frozen, maybe a little bit, the Flames were matched up against the Perth Blue Wings to start the tournament. The Flames started slow but did rally to earn a 3-1 win.
1st Period: The Flames managed five shots on goal, and did control the puck some, while taking a few icing calls. They held the Blue Wings to just a pair of shots on goal. After one period, the game was tied at 0-0.
2nd Period: the second period saw the Blue Wings score first. After a loose puck sat for what seemed like an hour in the Flames empty defensive crease, Patrick Goren swept the puck aside, and clear of the goalmouth. The trouble was that Goren used his gloved hand to do so, which, by rule awards the non-offending team a penalty shot. The Perth player scored and the Flames trailed 1-0. The Flames took a penalty just 20 seconds after the goal and were in a tight spot, not wanting to go down by two goals. The Flames and, superb penalty killer, Brendan Courtney, held their own, and killed the penalty. Then with just 78 ticks left to play in the 2nd period, the Flames scored on the power play to tie the game. After a great shift from Wil Hebert, Jackson Puzzo, and Sam Hebert, they were rewarded with a goal. Sam finally tapped the puck into the net after shots and passes had trickled through traffic, bounced off of the goalie, and appeared to going wide of the net. Sam collected the puck and quickly slid it behind the goaltender before he could recover. Puzzo and Wil Hebert got the assists. The period ended with the game tied at 1-1, and the Flames holding a 14-6 advantage in shots.
3rd Period: 11 seconds into the final period, the Flames took the lead. After winning a scrum following the face off, Sam Hebert took a pass from Sean Moore and bolted up left wing. Hebert made no mistake, roofing the puck in the top right corner of the net, and scoring his second goal of the game. Minutes later, Zachary Bayer scored on a set up from Jackson Puzzo and the Flames led 3-1 with half a period to play. The Flames collapsed around their own net and kept most play to the outside in trying to preserve their lead. The final score would stay the same, a 3-1 win for the Flames. Keenan Alnahas and Anders Lindberg combined to save 10 of 11 shots and earn the win for the Flames. The Flames generated 19 shots on goal in the game. Sam Hebert was named player of the game for the Flames who move over to the Bell Sensplex, and the Mattamy Homes Arena for a 7:30pm game tonight, against the Kitchener Jr. Rangers Blue.